10 months ago hkaplun 0
We’ve all heard the phrase “easier said than done.” Ya, know “I’m going to start waking up earlier” “I’m going to exercise more” “I’m only going to watch one more episode of this show.” There are mitzvahs that are easier said than done too, one being not speaking, or hearing, Lashon Hara.
Lashon hara is basically evil speech, so gossiping or slandering would be classified as Lashon hara. Of the 43 sins listed in the Al Cheit confession we say on Yom Kippur, 11 have to do with speech– that’s 25%. Additionally, there are 31 laws of lashon hara. So, why is lashon hara such a big deal? The point of not speaking lashon hara is to prevent embarrassing someone. In Jewish thought, embarrassing someone in public is akin to killing someone. The Talmud teaches that the tongue is an instrument so dangerous that it must be kept hidden from view, behind two protective walls (the mouth and teeth) to prevent its misuse.
Let’s talk about the power of speech. Words can be used to inspire, uplift, teach, and empower. Words can also be a catalyst for hate and intolerance. Think about what’s happening in the media regarding Israel. Newspapers and other news outlets are using words to divulge false information. This is giving people false information which they begin to believe and causes more problems.
You may ask, what if what you’re saying is true? Even so, you still can’t speak negatively about them. Now of course there are exceptions like if the person would cause you harm if you didn’t tell someone, or if not saying anything could harm other people. This being said, it can be tricky as to what is Lashon hara and what isn’t. If you set someone up to give a backhanded compliment, that can turn into lashon hara. For example if I say “isn’t that person’s shirt really nice” and you say “they look fat” that’s lashon hara. Even if you don’t say the name of someone your are gossiping about but the person you are talking to could possibly figure out who you’re talking about, it’s lashon hara. And if you say “I don’t mean to speak lashon hara but…” It’s still lashon hara.
Lashon Hara is super prevalent in our own lives. I guarantee that everyone hears lashon hara at least three times a day. Being in highschool, I hear it almost constantly. People can be really petty, and insecure, tear others down to make themselves feel good. Think about it: gossiping about someone makes you feel powerful. It makes you feel like you have something on the person. Dare I say, it’s fun to gossip. What’s not fun is when you upset a person, or when they find out about what you said. At the end of the day, it’s extremely toxic and damaging. You’re not even supposed to listen to lashon hara, and you’re actually supposed to rebuke the speaker. This can be even harder than not speaking lashon hara. You don’t want to be seen as a buzzkill or a downer. I admit, I have been a bystander to lashon hara because I didn’t think it was my place to say, or I was afraid that the people would in turn speak lashon hara about me. Something small like “cut it out” or “let’s change the subject” are key things to say.
Once, a man went about the community telling malicious lies and overall bad things about the rabbi. These rumors spread throughout the community and people stopped coming on shabbos and to community events. The man later realized he had made a mistake and felt badly. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness. The Rabbi told the man, go to the mountain nearby, take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds. The man thought this was strange but he was willing to do anything to make amends. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”
The first thing you can do to not speak lashon hara is just being aware. Be conscious of what you say and think before you speak. Before you speak think, “is it worth it? Is it kind? Is it true?” The cliche “think before you speak” really resonates with lashon hara, because that’s what it’s all about.